Tag Archives: Soccer Training


How Young Athletes Can Dominate Soccer And Other Areas of Their Life

In episode 26 We interview Niyi Sobo, former pro athlete turned coach and motivational speaker. You have to listen to the show to learn how to improve and dominate all areas of your life, including your favorite sport. Maybe you want to dominate soccer… Niyi goes over some strategies that you can do TODAY! to improve your performance. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t believe he was giving all of this for free. I am very grateful that Niyi took some time to help out our listeners. If you would like to thank him, go Check out his website at www.imnotyou.com.
Because if you want to DOMINATE, Niyi can show you how.

niyiIMNOTYOU.COM is a brand reserved for highly competitive athletes, who desire to take their game to new and dominant levels, and refuse to “fit in” and settle for average.

It’s the mindset you MUST have if you want to dominate your sport and reach your goals.
As an athlete, there are 3 areas that you have got to master if you want to succeed and break through and Niyi breaks these down for us during the podcast.

You must have unshakeable believe in yourself and your abilities. Your beliefs, your visions, and your language and attitude have got to reflect the goals you have.

You MUST make sure you are doing all the things necessary, every day, to develop the consistency and skill. If you don’t, you can never expect to dominate, or even play well, on a consistent basis.

Systems & Strategies
You can’t afford to be “random”. If you take random actions, expect random results. All of your moves must be calculated, and part of a bigger picture.

If you want the results you say you do, you are going to have to take on an entirely different attitude, a different mindset. You will have to adopt the belief that will set you apart, and make sure that you stay strong when others are weak.

You’ll have to adopt the same belief I had during 3 hour 2 a day practices in blistering New orleans heat, when I was the lowest man on the totem pole trying to earn my spot. That belief is..

“I’m Not You.”

They give up. You re-up.

They compete. You Dominate.
If you’re up for that challenge, then listen to the podcast, visit www.IMNOTYOU.com/yse and get the Free report to start dominating.


Soccer development shouldn’t be the ONLY goal for Futsal players

When we think about Futsal in the United States, we always try to explain the benefits of Futsal. I’ve had to explain a million times already to parents about Futsal’s benefits and how it will help you with decision making, quicker feet, speed of play, more touches, balance, agility, 1 v 1 moves, and the list goes on. But I recently had a conversation with Stephen Finn, who works for the Football Association of Ireland. We discussed the problems with educating parents and coaches about the benefits of Futsal. He said something interesting that I hadn’t thought about because I was so concerned with developing soccer players. This is what Stephen said

” I think helping people understand that soccer players can benefit from playing futsal is good but what is even better is that some players will be even better futsal players than they ever will be soccer players and when people see these guys in full flow they will excite spectators and grow your audience”

This is something we need to start advocating now that we have a US Youth Futsal National Team and a Professional Futsal League. As Futsal educators and advocates, we should not only think about improving the soccer player, but WE need to start thinking about developing the next Futsal player. We have a new goal and that goal is aligned with what we are already trying to do, develop futsal players for the future. Futsal

So from now on, not only will I educate parents on how futsal can enhance the skills of a soccer player, but that your son or daughter may one day become an excellent Futsal player, and there is nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact it should be celebrated. Futsal players are no joke and are admired Futsal players around the world. Falcao and Ricardinho are just two of the best. Speaking of Ricardinho, I am working on a post about his development. Ricardinho tried out for soccer clubs as a kid, he was told by a soccer coach that he was too small to play soccer. He thought he would never play soccer again. A coach saw him playing and asked him to join their futsal team. In 2010 he won the Futsal Player of the Year award, more on that later. This happens to thousands of kids here in the US. Since the majority of coaches are in the “win at all costs” bandwagon, the smaller “weaker” players are pushed to the side. But now we can offer them Futsal! and just like Ricardinho, they will have an opportunity to continue their love for soccer and futsal. Futsal welcomes every player, big or small. The advantages of size in Futsal are very few (you can always use that big Pivo or Fixo). Now the smaller technically gifted players neglected by soccer coaches will have a Futsal coach waiting for them with open arms. And they will be given the ball and the crowd will request creativity.

Parents, coaches, and clubs need to understand that Futsal should no longer be viewed as only a tool to enhance the skills and development of a soccer player, but as a sport that will produce its own brilliant players. We as coaches and parents need to recognize that and give the opportunity to the kids to develop as futsal players if they choose to go that route. We should be taking the approach of Spain and Brazil by letting the kids start out with futsal and then allowing them to progress to the outdoor game. This will improve their development tremendously for numerous reasons, including the fact that they won’t be playing 7 v 7 when they are only 8 years old. The fact that the US has so much land for soccer fields is actually a curse when you look at it through a soccer player development perspective. Because we have the real estate to build soccer fields all over the place, we think that every child should be playing on a regular size field. So just by introducing the kids to futsal at an early age, the soccer player development process will be improved. Futsal is not going anywhere, the quicker that coaches and parents realize that, the quicker we can progress and start developing players. Youth Futsal leagues are popping up everywhere and as Keith Tozer said, we have the most futsal courts in the entire world (we have 2-3 gyms in every school). The future looks bright for Futsal and Futsal players around the globe.

What are your thoughts about the US developing a world class futsal player? can it be done? or Will we find coaches to stunt their growth?


YSE11: How to navigate College ID camps and play Division I Soccer, with Elijah Michaels

Elijah Michaels Courtesy of wmu.edu

Elijah Michaels

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

In Episode 11, we had the pleasure of discussing the development of a young goalie, Elijah Michaels, that I first met when he was around 12 years old. The interview was conducted back in May of 2014 when Elijah was still in High School. Today he is at Western Michigan University plying his trade with the Broncos. I want to thank Elijah and Ann for coming on the show.

Elijah Michaels was still a field player, when I first met him, playing on his Red Arrow SC team coached by his mother, Ann Michaels. Elijah continued having fun playing and developing into one of the best goalkeepers in Michigan. He and his mother took some time to discuss their journey which started back when Elijah was about 5 years old. Elijah is a bright young man as you can tell in the interview and I knew he would have a lot of insight into developing as a young goalkeeper.

Elijah goes into detail about the reason he kept playing soccer and why he still loves it today. He and his mother specifically discuss how they were able to navigate through numerous goalie camps and eventually used the College ID camps to their advantage by getting letters of recommendation from Toni Dicicco! They give us many tips and advice on how to navigate this difficult process and why starting early is critical in today’s world.

Elijah also gives great insight into the mind of a young keeper and how they take games, training sessions, and winning and losing. Why he decided to specialize in High School. Why having a terrible memory is good for goalkeeping.

Ann stated that as a parent, she decided to learn and play the sport herself so that she could help her kids develop. I thought this was a great point, because the sport is not as easy as it looks or as easy as parents may think it is.

I am also working on an ebook to help parents and players navigate through the college recruiting process. If you are interested in a free copy, just let me know.


Elijah’s WMU bio

http://www.soccerplus.org/ Where Elijah met coach Dicicco

Would you like to connect with Elijah or have any questions for him? He gave his email  please contact him.

Unsure about your player development knowledge? Want to make sure you maximize your player development model? Click here for more information. 



YSE10: A Different Kind of Training and Development with Mark Burke, former Aston Villa player

MobtBK_0_400x400 Mark BurkeMark Burke has been described as “sure of touch, calm of mind, he would lope around in seemingly lackadaisical fashion before offering a cute little pass here or a deft touch there. A man with an eye for ball retention.” He enjoyed a promising career in England with Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Wolves. He soon left Port Vale to join Fortuna Sittard and apply his trade in Holland as a 26-year-old in 1995. It was in the Netherlands that Mark began to understand and view the soccer player development process. We were lucky enough to get him on the podcast to discuss player development with us and talk a little about his book, A Different Kind Of Soccer.

Mark knows what it takes to make it in Europe and he shared some of his insights. Additionally Mark shares his visit to Holland and what he learned about player development in the Netherlands. Why the Dutch’s attention to detail and belief in their own system is what separates them from the rest. Why the Dutch have decided to stick to their philosophy and continue developing players. bannerforsite

Mark was a great guest on the show and we can’t thank him enough for sharing his blueprint on developing players. Get his book to ensure that you are optimizing the development of any player you coach or parent. The book will teach you what the game is about, the stages of learning, and how to improve your technique and mental game. There is also insight into the training and development approach. This book is a great tool for the Player, the Coach, the Parent, and the Club Administrator.

And if you decide to purchase the book, make sure you use our link (or click on the banner above) and Mark has graciously agreed to donate some of the proceeds to the YSE Podcast. Thank you in advance!

“In England it’s a totally different thinking. If you don’t follow that run people will wonder what you’re playing at. The Dutch are thinkers. They think more about the game than we do. We have this idea of the Dutch being very liberal but that’s not really true – it’s an extremely regimented and organised culture and the football is the same. It’s organised to the smallest detail.”

“I had a lot of ideas about football before I went there but it was in Holland that I learnt how to organise them. In that first year I found out so much. Pim Verbeek really took me under his wing. We used to drive all over Holland just watching games to introduce me to the different styles and how teams played. It was a real football education”.


If you have a question for Mark or you want to let him know you are a fan of his book or interview, let him know here.

Follow Mark on Twitter https://twitter.com/iammarkburke

on facebook https://www.facebook.com/adifferentkindofsoccer



Case Study on Youth Soccer player development, coaching U11 Girls


In the fall of 2009 I was asked to coach a U11 Girls team. I had just joined the club and was eager to get started with a young team. This would be a newly formed group. My daughter, who had played recreational soccer for the past 4 years, would also be trying out for the team. I knew this was an opportunity to develop young soccer players who were not thought of as “elite”, since most of the bigger clubs had already taken those players at the U8-U10 years. Youth soccer player development was something I was really getting interested in. I had a few years of coaching under my belt and I wanted to see how and/or if I could develop a group of players using my system.

Tryouts: The tryouts were simple. There were only 9 girls that showed up to tryout. This was a small club so we were not expecting many kids. The part that I enjoyed was that I would not have to cut anyone and all the kids that came out would get the opportunity to play soccer. The team played an 8 v 8 format in the league. So I knew we had to pick up a few extra players from somewhere. Luckily the U12 team in the same club was a very strong team in the area and also had 2 other players that were playing up a division, but were true U11 players. After speaking to the president of the club, it was decided that those two players would be asked to play and “dual-roster” with the U11 team to fill the roster. Out of 11 girls on the team, only 5 kids had experience playing travel soccer, so I knew I had my hands full, but was up for the challenge.

At the 3 v 3 tournament

At the 3 v 3 tournament

Practice Begins: Youth soccer player development was a challenge. I had two kids who had been playing at a high level with the older U12 team and they would get frustrated when the rest of the team couldn’t keep up. I realized that the kids lacked technique and I was trying to teach them tactics. Through no fault of their own, the kids had never had specific technical training, and it was obvious. This is an important lesson, you cannot teach tactics until they have good ball control. I modified my training sessions to include 1 to 1 player to ball ratio 60-70% of the time. The rest of the time was split into 1 v 1 moves and 4 v 4 small sided games. The kids were getting tons of touches on the ball every single practice, twice a week. But the reality is that kids don’t practice during the summer months because, according to parents, it’s their “time off” from soccer. The other reality is that the majority of kids don’t play soccer unless it’s structured. So we had about 6 practices before our first game, for a total of about 9 hours of training.

Season Opener: The season opener started with a major defeat, 10-0. The second game, 14-1. I could tell the parents and kids were getting discouraged. The two “dual-roster” players didn’t want to be part of the team anymore. They were used to winning games. I sent out an email to the parents explaining my plan and begging for a chance to work with the kids. I explained to the parents that I was focusing on technique and if they stuck around, the girls would make big improvements, but they had to be patient with me. I also requested that the kids get to the field one hour before the game, to give the kids an extra hour of practice. Parents questioned, “what if the girls are tired by the time the game starts?”. I explained to them that the result of the game didn’t matter, the girls needed one on one time with the ball as much as possible. Surprisingly the parents agreed and followed my lead. They were putting their trust in me to develop their soccer player.

We played the same two teams (that beat us with a combined score of 24-1) towards the end of the season again and lost 5-0 and 4-0, respectively even without the help of the two dual roster players because by that time they were not coming to the games to get beaten. I could tell that the kids had improved from the start to the end of the season. I was overjoyed and sold it to the parents! They bought it, as they should have since it was a major improvement. I was very proud of the kids for working so hard for those 3 months. There had been some significant improvement. We ended the season with a 0-8 record, 48 goals scored against and only 2 goals forced all year long. I was able to keep the team together thanks to very understanding parents.

Here are the results posted on the league website:

Winter 2009-2010: Fortunately for our club we had our own private indoor facility in Michigan. While the rest of the clubs sat at home and played only on the weekends, our team did two training sessions every week and played in an indoor soccer league on the weekend. The team was doing about 15 hours of extra training each month. The training sessions were still mostly technical training, but it was obvious that the players were starting to gain confidence. I taught the girls some street soccer skills, introduced them to futsal, and even brought my computer to show some Messi and Ronaldo videos to the girls for inspiration. I had to make them fall in love with soccer, I knew it was critical that they get inspired by someone or something. They needed to find a passion so that they could start practicing on their own.

The 2010 Spring Season brought the first win to the team, however this was in the B Division. The team finished in the middle of the pack out of 14 teams, in 5th place with a 4-2-2 record. 30 goals forced, 14 goals allowed. We were moving forward and the parents and players were seeing some results.

2010 Fall Season: All of the players came back to tryouts, except for one that was injured. We picked up another 2 recreational players as well. We moved back up to the A Division. This time we finished with a 2-4-2 record, playing the same exact teams that had just wiped the floor with us 12 months ago. Major improvement from the previous year. The girls were getting very confident on the ball and we were starting to work on some tactics. Now they wanted to go to tournaments. I wanted to keep working on development. They saw every other team traveling all over the country for tournaments and camps, I just asked them to keep playing, on their own, with a sibling, or with friends.

Winter 2010-11: Now winter indoor trainings were divided into technical and tactical. The majority of the time we worked on dribbling, possession, and just plain ball control. I also added shooting and some 1 v 1 moves. Defense and Offensive tactics were also taught depending on the day. We also attended a small 3 v 3 tournament where the girls made the Final, but lost to a talented, hand picked, team from Chicago. There was nothing fancy or secretive about it, they just played and played. During indoor games, I prohibited the girls from playing the ball off the wall, while every other team would wait for the ball to bounce back to them. This was not about winning or looking good like the other clubs, I wanted them to develop.

U12 playing vs TKO

U12 playing vs TKO

Spring 2011 Season: By now the girls were starting to learn tactics and implementing them in the game. In the A Division, the girls finished 3-4-1. This was another step in the right direction. The parents continued to believe in what we were doing and were on board to continue the project. We also attended a tournament at the end of the season where we made the semi-final. Their confidence just kept growing along with their development. The most impressive part was that the team had never recruited a single player and the two best players that had started out with the team had left because they saw no hope for this team. We also kept getting beat by a certain team with very athletic players. I kept reminding the girls that once they learned to have complete control of the ball, they would be able to beat this team. The reason was that these athletic teams with no skill would not be able to keep up and would end up chasing the ball. This team kept winning the league (by U14 they couldn’t win any games).

Tryouts Summer 2011: The transition from U12 to U13 is always very hectic for clubs, teams, players, and parents. The problem is that in U12, each team only needs about 11-13 players, since only 8 play at a time. Once they move to U13, they now play 11 vs 11 and you need about 4-5 substitutes. So every team that existed at U12 must now get an additional 5-6 players. The reality is that some teams will cease to exist after this transition. I knew our team had made an impact around the league because I had parents from different clubs calling me asking if they could get on our team. Unfortunately there were some geographical problems since our club is outside a major metropolitan area. I think the fact that parents were requesting to get on our team was a sign that they respected and recognized the work that had been done by the team, coach, and parents. We came out of tryouts with our core group of 12 players, and added two more, for a total of 14. This was enough to get us through the season.

Fall 2011 Season: By this time, the team had been training for two years together. They were starting to really communicate and play together. They had developed into smart technical players that could play in any system. Additionally, 4 players had been invited to play on Premier level teams. The team finished with combined record of 6-2 and finished tied for 2nd place in Division A. The team scored 17 goals and allowed only 4.

Winter 2011-12: As soon as the season was over at the end of October, we quickly transitioned to indoor training in our private facility. This was a great opportunity to continue with the Youth soccer training and development. The team also played indoor soccer at the local indoor soccer arena. During that session, the team picked up two additional players that wanted to join our team. On two separate occasions, the parents had asked what I was doing to help the team play so well. I explained to the parents that I wasn’t doing anything different and invited them to train with our team so they could see what we do. I didn’t try to sell them on anything or recruit them, I just offered to help. As a matter of fact, I invited their entire team to join us. I had nothing to hide and didn’t really think I was doing anything special. Since we trained indoors anyway, I invited them to train with us anytime they wanted. Both players attended our trainings and decided that they liked what they saw. They soon got along with the rest of the team and they were asked to join us and dual roster. We never asked either one to leave their team, but if they had the time and desire, they could help us.

Additionally that winter I decided to take the next step in the development process and challenge the team by applying to play at the Elite level. I had a parent meeting and explained the reason I felt the kids were ready to play at that level. There were some concerns regarding the costs, travel, and competition. I was able to convince the parents and the team was accepted into the Elite Division. The cost to play was the same, but the travel was a little longer.

Spring 2012 Elite Division: That season the team not only proved that they belonged at the Elite level, but they were also one of the best teams. They ended the season in 3rd place! We also attended a tournament and received 1st place. All this was accomplished with the same core group of 8 girls that went 0-8, just 3 years prior. By this time several of the players were getting frequent requests from bigger clubs, including my daughter. The next Fall 2012, the team won the Elite Division. I stepped down as the coach due to other commitments with my business and coaching.

We started with 8 core players that stayed the entire coarse. They lost every game with 2 “dual rostered” players that were very good.
4 years later, that same core group had already been promoted to Elite league and won the league. The next season, all 8 players were offered spots on Premier teams, 1 went to MRL team.

I tell this story because it’s remarkable. I didn’t do anything special. youth soccer player development is not that difficult, but there are many out there that make it appear as if it was.
This is what I did to improve the youth soccer player development of each player.
1. Created an environment where they could make mistakes without judgement.
2. Taught them that soccer is supposed to be fun and if you are not having fun, you are in the wrong sport
3. Gave them players and teams to look up to (I would tell my fullback, wow that looked like Dani Alves, and she would ask who’s Dani Alves. The next session i would bring a video of Alves). I would show them a move and say, this is how Ronaldo does the scissors, then show them the video.
4. Had year round training sessions, NOT GAMES, just practice where they could make as many mistakes as possible. The practices were so loose and unstructured, that a parent once complained to me about the lack of structure. I told them YES, they are very unstructured and that’s how i plan them. FREE PLAY!
5. I did not allow them to use walls for support during indoor games or training sessions. I introduced them to futsal, even though a few parents didn’t like it, but it helped.
6. I had to rewire their brain and show them that when we are in possession of the ball, EVERYONE is on offense, including the goalkeeper. This was new to them because they were used to getting yelled at when they “left their position”. Now they all interchange positions without even thinking, which in turn improved their communication. It’s great to watch.
7. Worked on technique, but understood that they sometimes master their own technique. some kids pass really well with their outside. Not everyone shoots the same, ask Ronaldo.
8. I encouraged them to be creative and applauded anytime they tried it, whether it worker or not, winning or losing, didn’t matter, creativity was part of the development process. I would use the word “ole” when we did a good move, so much that the girls started using it as well.
9. I communicated with the parents always respecting their opinion on travel, costs, and tournaments, afterall, these were their kids, not mine.

This wasn’t just my doing, the kids also put in tons of hard work. I think they believed in the process a youth soccer player development and bought into it. They did their part by working hard. That’s the trick, is that they have to make it to practice, work on their own, and then it will pay off. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest soccer coach, if the player is not motivated, forget it.


Soccer Player Development vs Soccer Coaching

What is the difference between Player Development and Coaching Soccer? There is a huge difference and every soccer parent needs to know.

A good soccer coach is not necessarily a good soccer player developer. A good soccer coach may have a lot of knowledge about tactics and how to improve team performance. The coach may also have experience in playing different formations and positions. All of this knowledge has to be transferred over to the players soccer-ball-on-the-field-100184840so they can function as individuals on a team and perform well. The soccer coach is more concerned with team performance and outcomes. The coach may win a lot of games under that system and the players may perform really well. That is the sign of a good coach. He/she gets the most out of the players. In order to be able to successfully coach players, they need to be developed.

Player Development is similar to coaching and it’s the reason why the two are used synonymously. When working on Player Development, the goal is to get players prepared to play in a system or prepared to be coached. Although the Player Development phase starts out at a young age, it continues throughout their childhood and into their early adult life. The process is very long and it’s key to understanding player development. A coach can also improve player development during coaching, both tactically and individually.

The problem we face as parents is when we get coaches who want to coach at such young ages. Some coaches will attempt to teach tactics to very young kids that are not prepared to be “coached”. I have seen coaches on numerous occasions trying to teach a diagnol run to a 6 year old. The young child has never been interested in any of those tactics. At that young age, kids just want to kick the ball.child-soccer-player-100226365

Everyone can be a great player developer, it’s easy. We have to let nature take its course, and allow kids to be kids. Don’t teach young soccer players tactics when they are not prepared, instead invest your time and energy on player development. The young soccer player must first develop as a player before they can learn, execute, and/or understand tactics. I still see 12 – 14 year old kids who have been playing soccer for 6-8 years and they still can’t learn tactics because they have yet to develop their fundamentals. What this tells me is that their development process was broken. They started learning tactics at a very young age and they skipped the development phase.

To avoid this problem, make sure you know what you want to accomplish whenever you put your child into a class, team, or academy. The first thing you should be concerned with is to develop the player. This means you have to ignore goals and game scores. It doesn’t help if your son/daughter’s team wins every game and all you are working on is tactics. At some point the rest of the kids that are developing appropriately will catch up because they will understand and execute tactics better.

You will need a “good coach” when the child gets older and ready to learn about tactics. The most important thing during the development phase is to have a trainer/coach who understands development and is only concerned with individual progress, not wins or losses. The coach/trainer should have a healthy nurturing soccer environment. He/she should always be positive with the kids, always encouraging and challenging the kids to improve as individuals. The “team” concept won’t matter to kids until they get older, so don’t hammer this into them. It’s part of nature, kids are born selfish, and they only think about themselves until they get older.

If you are interested in learning more about soccer player development, you can listen to our Free Youth Soccer Evolution Podcast where we interview professional players about their development, or purchase my friend Mark Burke’s ebook, A Different Kind of Soccer Book. In this book, Mark (who played professionally for Aston Villa in the English Premier) goes into detail about training and development for young kids.

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator


5 tips to train a toddler in soccer

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

Coaching a toddler in soccer is very simple, but yet so many people get it wrong. Remember that kids at that age barely have any coordination and are just starting to learn to maneuver their bodies.
Tip #1 Understand the natural process of development
The object of the game is to make them fall in love with soccer and make them want to play. What I teach parents is to understand two things here. Reinforcement and Pairing. In Behavior Analysis, Positive Reinforcement is described as “The presentation of a stimulus that increases the future likelihood that a behavior will occur. It is important to note that “positive” does not necessarily mean “good” or “desirable”. Examples of positive reinforcement: 1) Giving a child a high five after they kick or dribble the ball increases the odds that they will want to kick or dribble the ball again next time”. (www.behaviorbabe.com). We do this all the time with kids, it’s the reason that they model us so much, they get praised. The second factor is “Pairing”, that is described as “The process of creating (or re-creating) an enjoyable, reinforcing, and pleasurable relationship between parent and child, where the child comes to view the parent as not just the giver of reinforcement, but as actual reinforcement”.
Behavior Analysis is my field of study, so it may be a little confusing. What these two definitions tell us about behavior is that in order for a child to “learn” to love the game, they must first receive some type of reinforcement from the activity (they must feel good when they kick the ball). Parents can provide positive reinforcement by giving a high five, cheering for them, and/or telling them how great they did (remember we are talking about toddlers, so everything they do must be the greatest of all time!). The child will then begin to PAIR the two, playing Soccer with dad is Fun.
Tip #2 Don’t force the Toddler to play soccer!
Never force your toddler to play. This can go very bad as the child could learn to distinguish Soccer with punishment. Wait for the right time. Remember that punishment will reduce behavior. The last thing we want is to reduce the toddler’s behavior of playing soccer or have a bad experience. During my consulting with parents and with my own kids, I have witnessed times when kids just don’t want to play, regardless of how much the game may mean to the parent or teammates.
Tip #3 Soccer Environment
To combat a child that doesn’t want to play, you need to set up an environment that can nurture soccer players. For example, buy a few soccer balls and leave them throughout the home. You can kick a ball around or just dribble and act like it’s a lot of fun. The child at some point will want to join and see what all the fuss is about. Why is the parent having so much fun? And they will want to feel that same Reinforcement. You can also watch soccer on TV or friends or relatives that play. The point is to demonstrate to the child that soccer can be fun, so that the toddler can try playing soccer. Once the toddler starts or wants to try soccer, that is your opportunity to use all of your reinforcement energy and provide the toddler with lots of praise, high fives, and cheering whenever he/she does anything remotely close to what could be considered soccer. You must make this enjoyable for the toddler so that he can start pairing soccer with Fun!
Tip #4
You can buy something inexpensive that the child may like. For example, my youngest daughter wanted a pair of indoor shoes like her older sister when she was 4. She said she wanted them to play indoor soccer just like her older sister. Of course we bought them because it was a minimal investment for another opportunity to create some positive reinforcement (Buy the shoes, she wants to play). But parents can use anything to create this positive reinforcement. One time it was a little soccer bouncy ball that cost a quarter. Again, what you are trying to do is create that environment and reinforcement that involvement with soccer is good and you approve of it. In general, kids search for the approval of their parents, so if you approve them being around and involved with soccer, the kids will appreciate that.
Tip #5
There is no need for structure at this age. Let them play wherever, whenever they want. And sometimes in the middle of playing soccer, they may want to play volleyball or basketball and start dribbling. As long as they continue to be engaged with the ball is all that matters. Eventually they return to kicking it, because it’s the easiest thing to do. You can model by dribbling the ball yourself or kicking it, just don’t make the child upset. We want them to enjoy playing with the ball. So dribbling with the hands is better than nothing at this age. Remember we are trying to increase their creativity, coordination, and love for the ball. Please do not get obsessed with technique at this time, they will have plenty of time to work on that when they gain some type of coordination. But you definitely want to reinforce when they do use proper technique. For example “hey that was a great job using the inside part of your foot” or “nice, with the laces”. It’s all about Fun!


How to coach U5 Soccer Players and Team

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

There are many soccer organizations throughout the United States that want to contribute to the soccer player development of young players. The issue that comes up is when trying to identify coaches for these teams. 99.9% of the time, a parent volunteer is thrown into this role because they want to help. The organizations are non-profit the majority of the time and have very few resources to pay a professional or trained coach. This is not a very big problem when dealing with U5 or U6 teams. Our problem in the US is that parents think that a 45 minute training is sufficient for kids to improve.
The other issue is that parents think that if a U5 player doesn’t have a professional coach, they are not going to make it.
The quicker a parent accepts and understands that soccer player development is a process that takes over 10,000 hours, the better off that child will be. At early ages, from 2, 3, 4, or 5 years old, the children need to “play” with the ball. Not necessarily play soccer, but just play with the ball. It’s ok if a 2 year old picks up the ball with their hand, they are trying to get a feel for it. The plan is to help each child fall in love with the ball and WANT to play with it. If they ask to kick the ball with them, go do it. You don’t need to hire a personal trainer or coach for this, just go out and kick the ball with them. If they want you to play Goalie, be the best, weirdest, coolest, goalie of all time. Just make the child connect kicking a ball with fun. This is called “PAIRING” in behavior analysis and it basically means that the child has paired fun with the environment you create. You can read more about Pairing HERE.

kidwithball Once the child has paired kicking the ball around with having fun with you (or friends), you have established Pairing. This now means that the child will be reinforced (or enjoy) by playing soccer. This achievement will bring about many other reinforcers to the development of the child. But for now the most important thing is that your child now loves soccer and WANTS to play. If your child is under 5, there is no need for long hours of structured play, just plain backyard kicking the ball around is perfectly fine. Once they do join a structured team or league, there is no need to obsess over the structure. For example there is no need to complain that the coach “doesn’t know what he’s doing” because he doesn’t have any good drills. The best thing you can do is to keep the child engaged in playing in a game that is somewhat related to soccer. So if they are kicking, punting, dribbling, or juggling the ball, that is good enough for that age, as long as they are having fun.
I recommend that you have a few drills with one ball per child. You can make it up as you go or just search for dribbling soccer games. You can have all the kids dribble to the moon and back, dribble between cones, under or around parents, with cones on their heads, through the goals, or just to the line and back. The most technical aspect to focus on here is the ball and the player. Each player should make an attempt to keep the ball as close to them as possible. That’s all you have to worry about! But too many parents and coaches will spend HOURS talking to a 5 year old about forwards and midfielders and making runs and clearing the ball, etc. That is completely unnecessary since the child still has to learn how to dribble before any of that even makes sense.
So don’t waste your time with downloading passing and shooting drills for U5 or U6 players. None of that matter until a child can learn how to dribble. This will take time, so be ready to spend the next 3-4 years. Remember this is a process and there is no single drill or coach that can teach a 4-5 year old how to dribble in one day.
• The keys to remember about coaching U5 or U6 players is that they are all selfish, so they want the ball, ALL the time! That’s why you are not going to teach them to pass right now, they don’t want to do it and they don’t want to learn.
• Parents and coaches should focus on Pairing. Make sure the kids are associating soccer with fun. To do this you must pair soccer with fun. Anytime they are at the soccer field or playing with a ball, it should be fun. So if the child doesn’t want to play, don’t make them because that’s not fun. You need to go back to square one. The child should be asking you to play, not you asking the child to go play.
• You don’t have to teach them everything today. In the next 3-4 years, they will learn to dribble, pass, receive, shoot, and LOVE the game.
• The kids should be playing at home and outside of FORMAL training. So don’t expect players to reach their max potential if they are not playing outside of formal training hours. The child must love soccer so much that they ask you to play, they ask their friends to play, and they enjoy playing with anyone.
• Remember that as a coach, even if you have no clue about coaching, as long as they kids continue to love soccer after the season and want more, you have done your job. Because it means that they will continue getting better in the next 15 Years!!! That’s how important those first years are. They must establish Soccer/Football as a game that they love to play.

“Pairing” – The process of creating (or re-creating) an enjoyable, reinforcing, and pleasurable relationship between therapist and child, where the child comes to view the therapist as not just the giver of reinforcement, but as actual reinforcement. (www.IloveAba.com)


5 Important Lessons From AC Milan’s Youth Soccer Development Academy

For anyone interested in knowing some of the factors involved in youth soccer development, this is a must see. Rarely do we get an opportunity to get up close and personal to these international programs. Here are 5 important lessons from AC Milan that we can all agree on.
#1 AC Milan philosophy: Fabio Grasi explains that the club’s philosophy on youth soccer development is that “you cannot become a good player if you are not a decent person”. That’s not only a great coaching philosophy, but also a great parenting philosophy. There’s no way any parent would not agree with this philosophy. It also demonstrates that the club is not only concerned about their player development, but also about their future. AC Milan’s approach is to get kids to “grow as players and humans, because if you are disciplined in soccer, you will be discipline in life”.
He also explains that they don’t just care about technical abilities of the children and developing those, but they also care about the kids and their growth as soccer players.

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

Want to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

#2 Teach Respect: How does AC Milan reach this goal? Teach the kids about sharing spaces, respecting their teammates, the training equipment, and the opponents. They want the kids to build true friendships and trust each other. At the same time the trainer talks about building a relationship with the kids and getting the kids to trust him.
#3 Recruitment and Retention: The club admits that they scout for youth, which allows them to get motivated, elite athletes into their system, which helps with their youth soccer development.
Once a youth player is selected, they must spend an extra 15 minutes extra a day in their technical training program for about “3 years on average”. After those 3 years, the club will reevaluate the player.
#4 Create a Support System: The psychologist talks about creating a safe, healthy, and ideal environment for the kids to train and optimize development.
The kids that are interviewed explain that they must follow rules and get good grades. If they are failing, they have a counselor that works with the families. Additionally the club’s counselor also helps the families with social and economic issues.
#5 Coaches invested in Player Development: One player states that his coaches have “helped me grow as a player and person”. He explains that if he has friends on the field, they will trust each other and support him.
Fillipo Inzhagi was a great goal scorer for AC Milan and Italy as a player, but as a coach, he explains that he’s there to help kids reach their dream. He wants them to get to the field smiling and leave smiling. It’s about educating the kids about soccer. He explains that he scores goals today by helping the kids grow and mature. He explains that it will help them in their jobs and careers, whether it’s soccer or something else. Winning at AC Milan is giving your best effort.

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How to Develop Youth Soccer Players

Parents are always looking for that secret or “new” invention that will help their child reach the highest level. What parents should understand is that the answer is right in front of them. There is no secret to player development, but you as a parent can make a significant impact on your child’s youth soccer development.

As a parent, the first task is to introduce your child to soccer, in a fun atmosphere so that the child can start enjoying it.  This can happen as early as between the ages of 2-5 years of age.  Do NOT try to make your child play soccer, you can always encourage them, but don’t make them.

Once you have introduced your child to Soccer, and they enjoy kicking the ball, start introducing some dribbling skills on your own. You do NOT need a special trainer or special system for this. All you need to do is watch a short clip on YouTube and watch how easy it is to kick a ball with the inside of your foot. That skill alone will be used about 60 percent of the time the ball is touched. You don’t need special training to learn how to do this.

If your child is still enjoying kicking the ball around and playing with friends and family, AND they are over the age of 5 or 6, it’s time to get them into a recreational team. The team or league does not need to be extremely structured or with licensed coaches, just a parent or coach to SUPERVISE, no need to start coaching right now. Let the kids use “free play” and “guided discovery” to figure out things on their own. If you don’t want to help or volunteer to supervise, you may have to pay in order to have your child join, but it should be a small fee. You should also continue working on “playing” at home. Simple skills are appropriate at this age, passing, receiving, and dribbling are the most important. Continue working on these skills and let your child play at home, at the park, or anywhere else you have room.. You must be very careful not to try to put them into any type of competitive leagues or teams, there is no need and the benefits are few, if any.



At around 8-10 years of age, start introducing your child to YouTube clips of soccer players around the world. Kids don’t just learn by doing, they also learn by imitating others. It’s imperative that your child connects emotionally to the sport; this will help him/her enjoy the game longer and get a desire to improve to be a better player. I can’t overstate the importance of the drive and determination some kids develop. If they are emotionally vested in a team or player, they will want to watch and see how that player is performing. This will start the wheels of creativity in their own minds.

Expose them to the players, teams, leagues, or coaches that you like. Let your son/daughter make the decision on who or what to follow. This will create the emotional connection that is required for them to set goals on their own. Always encourage your child to continue practicing and improving and offer to help. Don’t make them train or practice at an early age, but give them the option by asking them if they want to play in the backyard or, if they are young enough 2-6 years old, inside the home.

Continue with this philosophy until you see that your child has an actual interest in playing soccer, competition, and improving. AYSO or other recreational programs are great for young kids. Do NOT invest hundreds of dollars on a club unless you know your son or daughter is actually interested in playing. Winning at the club level is even more emphasized, so your child needs to be mentally prepared for additional pressure.

If your child is doing well in the recreational program at the age of 8 – 11, and they show an actual interest in playing, watching, winning, and/or improving as a player, it’s time to have them join an academy or Soccer Club. It is not necessary to get them into a large club where you are paying thousands of dollars just so they can play 7 v 7. Every club will claim that they have “the best coaches”, just go to any soccer club website and you will see what I mean. The practices should consist of a lot of one on one with the ball. A lot of small sided games like 1v1, 2v2, 3v3. The coach should not be asking any player to specialize in any position, even the goalie. The coach should always be positive with the kids, even when they make mistakes. The score shouldn’t matter, the goal scorer shouldn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that your child continues to improve, has fun, and has the desire to get better.

At this age, the kids are starting to dribble on their own; they get confident with the ball and want to take players 1 v 1. They also begin passing and have an increased perception of space, width and depth. Their personality is starting to show and the kind of player they will be starts to emerge. This stage is important because it’s when the child will identify the desire and motivation to continue playing and getting better. They are now starting to get a hunger for competing and winning.

At around 11, 12, and 13 years old, the child starts growing and hits puberty. Do NOT get over excited because your child grows 10 inches in a year. This does not mean that they are ready to play a year above their age. It just means that they hit an early growth spurt. Do NOT confuse this with talent. Understand that your child’s advantage will only last for a few years or months until the rest of the kids catch up to their growth development. This also goes the other way, just because your child is a late bloomer, does not mean that he/she will be inferior. Stay focused and let them continue playing soccer because your child loves to play, enjoys being on the field, loves competing, and is motivated to improve. Winning games and scoring goals at this age does not mean that it will translate to High School or College; it means that your child is on a team that scores a lot of goals. What you must assess is the child’s ball control, vision on the field, confidence, and ability to take defenders 1 v 1.

At the age of 13, 14, and sometimes 15 years old, you should have a good idea of how motivated and interested your child is about soccer. If they are to take the next step to playing in College or Professional, they will need specialized training from a professional coach. See my other post on How to Develop a Serious Soccer Player.